Talks, Dogs, and Underground Comix

Our Art Talk about Bruce MacDonald‘s "Crucified Stuffed Bunny" painting that I told you about in a couple of earlier blog posts turned out to be an entertaining couple of hours, though not exactly what I had been anticipating..

Below: See some good-time gabbing in progress

It was the term panel that threw me off. Once I arrived at the gallery I realized that it wasn’t going to be so much a "panel discussion" as a modestly-populated "roundtable discussion," complete with an actual round table for us attendees to sit around.

As was appropriate to the subject at hand, the majority of the Art Talk participants were ordained ministers, these being ably assisted by a theological educator and some churchgoing laypeople. Eddie and I were rather the odd-people out in that regard., being of a distinctly secular persuasion.

That doesn’t mean that Eddie or I felt ganged up on, though. There were enough points of disagreement in the group to keep things interesting, but those sparks that did fly didn’t fly in an unpleasant way. People swapped views in rational, theological, and courteous terms. My argument supporting the usefulness of art that challenges people’s fundamental assumptions, even when seemingly sacred aspects of religion are being lampooned, was met with respect and good humor. Nobody got mad or sermonized.

Everyone who was in the room had braved penetratingly icy, rain-specked gusts of wind to get there. As far as I could tell all of us felt amply rewarded for bundling up in our heavy coats and making the effort. I know I did.

Then Came Lenox

The next day was Saturday the 16th and my mind turned to Lenox, where at 2 PM I was scheduled to read selections from Stuck Rubber Baby at The Bookstore in Lenox and sign copies afterwards for any readers who liked to have their books defaced in that way.

I hesitate to gush, but frankly the reading went about as well as any author could wish. My audience was attentive and welcoming and thoroughly enjoyable to chat with after my reading was over.

These kinds of events don’t always unfold so seamlessly (i.e.: at my last reading back in July, the heat and humidity made my vocal cords turn into jelly halfway through my presentation), and it’s a real pleasure when they do.

Below: Me answering audience-members’ questions after the reading itself.

Above: One of the attendees who offered me a book to sign was Laurie Norton Moffatt, the illustrious CEO and Executive Director of the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Stockbridge.

Below: Me with my host, Matt Tannenbaum, the book-lovin’ proprietor of The Bookstore.

Up Next at The Bookstore:
That Don Strachey Guy

Next Saturday I’ll be in the audience instead of up front, watching author Richard Stevenson (known to his friends here in the non-gay-mystery-novel world as Dick Lipez) wow us with scenes from his newest and funniest Donald Strachey novel Cockeyed.

Tell your calendar to remind you: it’s at 2 PM on October 29.

Another Weekend On The Verge

This weekend I strolled down to Main Street Stage to see the fascinatingly weird and funny play On The Verge, which I wrote about in my last blog entry.

I enjoyed the show and so did reviewer J. Peter Bergman, who sat a few rows behind me. Here’s what Bergman wrote about the show.

There are three more performances scheduled, as in next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (October 28-30).

Brace Yourself, North Adams!

"When Comics Went Underground," an exhibit of art from underground comic books that Denis Kitchen and I are co-curating, opens next Thursday at MCLA Gallery 51 (51Main Street) in North Adams. (Come to think of it, the gallery is practically next door to Main Street Stage, so if you attend the exhibits reception on Thursday you can segue directly into On The Verge while your brain is still reeling.)

"When Comics Went Underground" is not for the faint-hearted, I should mention. I’d think twice before bringing your kids along since these comix are sexually unfettered and generally bore "Adults Only" warnings on their covers during their publishing heyday in the 1960s and ’70s. In other words, those were rebellious times and there was pretty much nothing that we undergrounders feared to draw.

Still, underground comic books were products of an anarchic art movement that changed the trajectory of many careers, including mine. They drove a lot of would-be censors crazy, but they made their point in spades and their influence on the comics art form itself continues to this day.

Our show will run through the month of November, with an opening reception taking place from 6-8 PM on October 28. If at all possible, though, I would urge everyone to…

Arrive Early.

At 5 PM sharp, to be specific. Immediately before the reception proper.

That’s when we’ll be holding a panel discussion* aimed at putting the underground comix movement in context.

The panelists will be underground "veterans" Denis Kitchen, Gary Hallgren, and me assisted by MCLA Associate Professor of Visual Arts Gregory Scheckler. Moderating the panel will be local journalist John Seven, who writes frequently about comics in a number of venues including Publishers Weekly.

And if that not enough, two film documentaries relevant to the show will have free screenings at the gallery on successive Mondays while the show is running.

On November 8 at 7 PM you’re invited to see Crumb, Terry Zwigoff‘s 1994 profile of R. Crumb, the famed creator of Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat, and the recent bestselling graphic-novel adaptation of The Book of Genesis.

Then on November 15, also at 7, you can catch Comic Book Confidential, Ron Mann‘s 1989 documentary about a number of prominent comic book creators, both mainstream and underground.

Kudos to Gallery 51 for opening up its walls and giving my cartooning generation’s transgressive brainchildren recognition they deserve.

*Yes, this one will be an actual panel discussion, not a roundtable!

Ah, HA!!!!!

At last I caught Junior and Lulu relaxing in each other’s proximity long enough for me to snap a photo! (See my last blog entry and you’ll understand why this was a triumphant moment for me.)

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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One Response to Talks, Dogs, and Underground Comix

  1. Wish I could be there for your opening. Please extend my best wishes to Denis and Gary (and also your own self).